26-year-old Jacob Avald Howard of Saginaw, Minnesota has been charged with Third-Degree Murder after he allegedly provided the drugs that killed Austin Winter.
According to the criminal complaint, Winter was found dead by his stepfather in an Ice Castle on August 5, three days after Winter had graduated from treatment.
Text records taken from the victim's Facebook Messenger showed a conversation between Winter and Howard that occurred on August 4, 2019. In their conversation, the men agreed to meet at the Boarder Inn & Suites in Superior, Wisconsin, so Winter could buy the drugs, a clean needle, and water to liquefy the opiates for injection.
Security footage from the Boarder Inn & Suites obtained by Pine County Investigators showed Howard approach Winter's vehicle with a third person and leave. The third person was later identified as Jake Johnson who had an active felony warrant in St. Louis County for Aiding and Abetting Third-Degree Murder. Johnson allegedly helped provide fentanyl for a man who overdosed and died in 2018.
Even though Winter attempted to obtain drugs from other dealers in the area, he stopped looking for controlled substances after talking to Howard. Text records showed that Winter turned down another dealer for drugs later in the afternoon on that same day. Winter was last seen alive around 5:00 p.m. on August 4, and witnesses who interacted with him during that time frame said he did not appear under the influence.
An autopsy conducted by the Midwest Examiner's Office determined that Winter died due to a drug mix of fentanyl, acetyl fentanyl, and methamphetamine.
Jacob Howard was arrested on September 27 and is currently being held in the St. Louis County Jail on drug possession and burglary charges.
If convicted, Howard could face a maximum of 25 years in prison and/or a $40,000 fine.